How Often Does a Boxer Have to Defend His Title? [EXPLAINED]

So you’ve finally seen off the champion of your boxing weight class, stripping them of their belt and earning it for yourself. Now the hard work really begins – retaining it.

Ever wondered how often boxing champions have to defend their titles? For a start, as a general rule, they’re stricter than in the UFC, where you normally have a deadline of 18 or 24 months in which to do so. Below, we’ll run through the rules state for various boxing organisations on the subject:

Mandatory Title Defences Explained

Here are the terms regarding defence of boxing titles under the World Boxing Association (WBA), World Boxing Council (WBC), World Boxing Organisation (WBO) and the International Boxing Federation (IBF):

How Long Does a Boxer Have to Defend His Title?

WBA Mandatory Challenger Rules

Articles 5.1, 5.2 and 5.5 of the World Boxing Association Championship Rules state:

  • A WBA Continental Champion shall defend his title within nine months of having won it or having defended it successfully.
  • Should the official challenger be unable or unwilling to engage in the contest, the champion shall defend his title against the next highest-ranked person available in the current ratings.
  • A champion is not required to defend their title for the first six months after winning that title. They will then be required to make a mandatory defence against a challenger.
WBC Mandatory Challenger Rules

Articles 3.1, 3.2, 3.4 and 3.5 of the Rules and Regulations of the World Boxing Council state:

  • A WBC champion should aim to defend the title in mandatory or voluntary defences at least three times a year, unless a written exception or extension is granted by the WBC.
  • A champion who does not defend his title within those periods shall forfeit their title, unless the WBC permits otherwise.
  • Champions shall propose voluntary defences against qualified challengers, and shall make at least one mandatory defence a year.
WBO Mandatory Challenger Rules

Sections 5a, 5b and 5c of the World Boxing Organisation Regulations of World Championship Contests state:

  • Each WBO World Champion shall defend their title at least once in every nine-month interval from they earned their title, or from their last compulsory defence of their title (except in the Heavyweight Division – once every 12 months).
  • In the interim period, the World Champion may defend the title against any contender classed within the 15 best by the WBO, always with the approval of the World Championships Committee.
  • The WBO World Championship Committee may vacate a champion’s title (including the Heavyweight Division) if the Champion fails to defend their title within a nine-month period.
IBF Mandatory Challenger Rules

Rule 5 of the International Boxing Federation Governing Championship Contest Rules states:

  • A heavyweight champion shall defend their title within a year after earning it in a sanctioned, 12-round contest against the leading available contender as designated by the Championships Chairman.
  • Thereafter, they shall be obligated to defend their title within intervals of no more than nine months against the leading available contender in the Heavyweight Division as designated by the Championships Chairman.
  • The same applies to all other weight classes, other than they must first defend their belt within nine months of earning it, rather than 12 months.
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